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Suspected war criminals identified

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office is also involved in the investigation into war crimes in Ukraine. In a specific case, the suspected shooters have now been identified, said Justice Minister Buschmann.

The suspects in the first German investigation into a specific war crime in Ukraine are now known. “The suspected shooters and responsible officers have already been identified,” said Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) to the dpa news agency. “If we catch the perpetrators, we will bring charges. And if Ukraine or another country with which we cooperate gets hold of these people, then we will make the evidence available in such a way that charges can be successfully brought there .”

The case, which was initiated in mid-July, concerns targeted shots by members of the Russian armed forces at fleeing civilians in the Kiev suburb of Hostomel. According to information from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in September, one person with German nationality was among the civilians shot at and injured. There is an initial suspicion that war crimes have been committed.

Investigations by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office

Before opening this specific investigation, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office had already initiated a so-called structural investigation into alleged war crimes in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine in March 2022. The aim is to first secure evidence without specific suspects, for example by interviewing witnesses who have sought refuge in Germany. A similar approach was taken with regard to war crimes in Syria, where there have now been several convictions.

Views in multiple languages

However, for people who have become victims or witnesses of traumatizing experiences, it is often a great effort to confront and talk about their experiences again, said Buschmann. The German authorities launched appeals in Ukrainian, Russian and English to persuade people to share their experiences with the police. There are also staff who are trained to interrogate traumatized people in an appropriate manner.

“We have also considered making a video with the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Andrij Kostin, in which he addresses his compatriots,” reported Buschmann. It’s about lowering the hurdles. It is important to strengthen trust in German authorities “so that you can open up to them, even if you have experienced something very bad that you would like to quickly forget.”

Geneva Conventions regulate the treatment of civilians

What the international community understands as war crimes is recorded in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Rome Statute. These include “serious violations of the Geneva Conventions” – including the deliberate killing and torture of civilians and prisoners of war, but also serious physical injuries. Also listed are the arbitrary destruction and appropriation of property on a large scale, displacement and the taking of hostages. In addition, “other serious violations of the (…) laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict” are also defined as war crimes.

According to the principle of international criminal law, war crimes can be prosecuted in Germany even if there is no connection to Germany – that is, if neither the perpetrator nor the victim are German and the crime scene is abroad. This is how the Federal Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for the current conflict.

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